Little Echo Lake, Colorado, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Colorado - Front Range -

Also known as:  Lake Luena

One of the prettiest hidden sights on Colorado’s Front Range, Little Echo Lake makes visitors work a bit to get there. Accessible by a mile=long trail heading into the James Peak Wilderness Area, Little Echo Lake has been inspiring visitors to make the effort for well over a hundred years. The little alpine lake was known as Lake Luena in the late 19th century. Named in memory of Luena Langton who reportedly drowned there, the story is far in the past and somewhat fuzzy. The lake’s beauty wasn’t fuzzy at all, however, being featured on a stereoscope slide by James Collier about 1880. That bit of stereoscopic fame no doubt added to the popular attraction of the tiny lake at over 11,000 feet. Fed by snow melt, the lake has no regular inlets and only a sparse seasonal outlet. The lake and the surrounding James Peak Wilderness Area are considered part of Denver’s water supply. Its proximity to the Denver and Boulder areas makes it an attractive day hike for city residents wanting to enjoy the out-of-doors.

There are few statistics for Little Echo Lake. Nestled at the base of steep slopes that form part of the James Peak heights, the lake is said to be very deep, but no one has apparently measured its depth. The tiny lake is only about 10 to 15 acres in size but holds a nice selection of both rainbow trout and lake trout. The trout aren’t huge, with the lakers reaching only about 14 inches in length. Still, fly fishermen find it a real treat to catch lake trout on dry flies and often use float tubes to reach the best areas. It’s enough to encourage some anglers to regularly make the mile-and-a-half trek from the parking area. The trail isn’t considered especially difficult, although there are some steep slopes. But at this altitude, any kind of a climb can be exhausting to those not used to the thinner air. Not far to the west, James Peak Lake lies just below the summit of James Peak.

Little Echo Lake hasn’t always been publicly owned, although the trail has been available for many years. When the James Peak Wilderness Area was created within the Arapaho National Forest, a 318-acre parcel including Little Echo Lake was under private ownership. The owner finally sold the parcel to The Wilderness Land Trust which worked with other conservation trusts and the US Forest Service to add the property to the existing wilderness area. Paid for with oil and gas lease royalties, the new acquisition and its trail add another public access to the 17,000-acre James Peak Wilderness and another trailhead with access to an extensive series of high country trails near the Continental Divide. From the James Peak Trail, hikers can continue up to the James Peak Ridge, where they can enjoy a pristine wilderness central Rockies landscape overlooking the St. Mary’s Glacier less than three miles away. Those who take the fork for Ute Trail can reach Little Echo Lake or continue on to eventually join the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. This 3,100-mile trail is even longer than the Appalachian Trail and traverses several states between Canada and Mexico. Certain parts of the trail in Colorado are true wilderness.

No campfires are allowed in the entire James Peak Wilderness Area, and motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trail. Camping is allowed, but all camps must be at least 100 feet from the water. In this steep terrain, there are few flat areas near Little Echo Lake within which to pitch a tent. Most hikers are content to either fish or take lots of pictures of the lovely scenery. The wildflowers in July are a special treat. As the lake is above the treeline, there are some shrubs and low vegetation but little to interfere with spectacular views of 13,294-foot James Peak and others in the surrounding area. The Wilderness and Little Echo Lake are starkly beautiful, remote from any human habitation except for the occasional ruins of an ancient cabin or two. Those lucky enough to visit here will have their breath taken away, not just by the thin atmosphere but by the stunning vistas.

Little Echo Lake is an ideal day trip for visitors to Denver, Boulder or the surrounding metropolitan areas. Because the last few miles of the road to the parking area are quite rough, high-clearance vehicles, preferably with 4-wheel drive are strongly suggested. Although there are no campgrounds near the lake itself, there are several within the Arapahoe National Forest along the road west of Rollinsville. Those wishing a bit more of the comforts of home can find lodgings in private rentals around Rollinsville. Both Rollinsville and Nederland are in the heart of ski country, and many private ski cottages are available, along with lovely small resorts offering such amenities as hot tubs, excellent meals and ski lift tickets with the room rental. Those wishing to buy a piece of Colorado’s most beautiful country will often find real estate around both towns. A former ghost town on Rollinsville Road, the small hamlet of Tolland is slowly being revived and the remaining buildings refurbished as cabins and ski lodges. People lucky enough to live in Tolland brag there’s nothing to see . . .except the scenic vistas surrounding them on every side. In the future, the old inns in Tolland may again be open for business as they were in the 1920s.

There is no shortage of things to do in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests or the nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. Every possible activity to make your visit complete can be found within an hour of Little Echo Lake. From the museums, arts and culture of Denver to white-water rafting, skiing, hiking, back-country camping, fishing and simply enjoying the scenery, Little Echo Lake is a must-visit on your next trip to Colorado. The best season for getting into the back country is summer, but there are activities year round that will delight any visitor.

*All statistics are estimates as there is no official information available.

Things to do at Little Echo Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • National Park
  • National Forest
  • Museum
  • Ruins

Fish species found at Little Echo Lake

  • Lake Trout
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Trout

Little Echo Lake Photo Gallery

Little Echo Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 15 acres

Shoreline Length: 1 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 11,185 feet

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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